RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum Midterm Conference April 2019

I am a doctoral candidate at the School of Environment and Technology (SET). My doctoral research project is supervised by Dr Paul Gilchrist, Dr Mary Gearey and Professor Andrew Church who are all part of the Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics (SECP) and the Centre for Aquatic Environments research groups, which I am also affiliated with.

I recently took part in the RGS-IBG PGR Mid Term Conference in April 2019 hosted by the Manchester Metropolitan University where post-graduate doctoral students from a variety of geography disciplines from the UK and beyond gathered together over three days to share their ongoing research and network.  I was awarded the Postgraduate Forum Research Group Bursary which covered conference fee and I was delighted to attend this conference and explore the vibrant city of Manchester for the first time.

I travelled via train to Manchester and it was a lovely experience. As part of the conference events, I attended workshops on “walking as a research method” as well as another on “publishing for academics”. I was also opportune to see the research projects of other students. I was particularly intrigued by research on the idea of the human body as a contested space. At the conference, I presented a poster on the findings of a pilot study on people, spaces and places in the Brighton and Lewes Downs Biosphere Reserves. Posters were judged based on content and design. I returned happily to Brighton clutching a large box of chocolate for winning the 2nd prize. The panel of judges were members of the organising committee who were academic staff and PGR students at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Presenting at the conference was the first time I had to speak to an academic audience about a project I am passionate about since my last masters in 2015. I felt very confident because this is a subject that I am very passionate about and also it was exciting to see how relevant and interesting my research project was perceived by conference participants. Presenting at the conference also provided me with constructive feedback about my ongoing research project and I came back with useful information on key authors in geography. I must admit that, preparing my poster was quite daunting as I would never consider myself one that is very artistic or technically vast. I had to learn and acquire new technical skills in Adobe Suite and PowerPoint. I also reached out to several staff and colleagues including my research team for feedback. I feel very much fulfilled that the time and efforts it took to prepare my presentation were rewarding.

I am now exploring the campus as a place where students experience health and wellbeing. My study seeks to understand how students’ perceptions and interactions with green spaces (lawns, trees, parks, gardens etc.) and blue spaces (ponds, rivers, fountains etc.) affects their health and wellbeing and what this might mean for planning and designing healthy campuses.

Before embarking on the PhD, I had worked for about 10 years in the financial services, energy and health sector. I was awarded the Brighton Doctoral College Scholarship in 2017 to study at the university and this scholarship has since allowed me to transition towards a career in academia. The PhD experience for me has been one where I have learned to be responsible for my personal development which also includes managing my health and wellbeing. In my first years, I remember feeling overwhelmed with the level of responsibility and expectations required for the PhD and I found academic writing very challenging.  Thankfully, the university has put in place support systems in the form of my supervisors who continue to be accessible. I have also benefited from a range of seminars organised by other academic staff across schools particularly in the humanities and social sciences as my research project has an interdisciplinary undertone. In terms of resources and access, I have also received support from the School of Environment. I would also use this opportunity to commend the IT Services team as they are one of the most supportive team I have ever worked with. I feel that I am adequately supported while I progress in my doctoral journey.

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